Wednesday, July 7

Using ants to tell temperature

Remember when you were a kid and your parents or a teacher told you that you could figure out the temperature by counting the chirps of a cricket over a short period of time then plug that number into a formula and know what the temperature is? Amazingly it worked! Well, here’s another way to figure out how hot it is. Measure the distance covered in two seconds by the little black ants that I can never seem to get rid of when I want to cut off a slice of bread. I will bring out the loaf from the fridge, study the work table top to see if it’s clear of the little buggers, then start to cut. Suddenly an ant appears, running toward the bread. On a hot day they get there a whole lot faster than on a cold day. Noting that fact, I laid out a piece of graph paper with eight divisions per inch in the path of the ants. On my computer, Garage Band has a metronome sound I can crank up really high so I can hear it from the kitchen. Tick…tick…. Here comes an ant! Tick…scurry…tick…. She covered 2.125 inches in 2 seconds (most ants are girls, remember?). The temperature is 78°F, so the formula would be
D x 36.7=T
where D is distance in inches traveled in two seconds, and T is temperature in degrees Fahrenheit. You can round the multiplier to 37 so it’s easier to do this in your head, and you can probably round off the inches too if you’re not really fussy.

You may complain that ants don’t always run. True, sometimes they dawdle when they’re in the midst of something to eat like a dried spill of orange juice. But I’ve noticed that when they’re on graph paper, they scurry.

So there you have it. Some people may object that it’s too hard to carry around graph paper, a metronome, and a calculator to get it really right. Ants may scurry across the paper at an angle, skewing the accuracy. Besides, what about Celsius? True. But then you can always count cricket chirps. Or use my old standby: Count the number of insects a dozen swirling, darting barn swallows catch in a minute and divide by 16. Works every time.

2 comments:

Susan said...

Now I am worried. What if there are no ants, crickets or swallows around? What do you do in winter, for goodness sake?? This is such a concern. Do you have to count grizzly bear breaths or something instead?

When is your birthday? I'll send you a thermometer in both Celsius AND Fahrenheit. It's the safest, most loving and responsible thing to do.

Praying Horse said...

I know that ants raise my temperature when they bite me on the foot. Something that has been happening with regularity now that I don't feel like always wearing shoes. That grinding noise? The earth slowing down on her axis.